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Simulations spark learning for Athletic Training students

Did the lacrosse player break her wrist or just badly bruise it? Is that person in practice dealing with heat stroke? What do you do when a young player suffers every athlete’s nightmare, a cervical spine injury?

The first class of USM’s Master’s in Athletic Training played out those scenarios this week in a series of emergency simulations — made ever more realistic by a USM theater student playing the injured athlete and by the Gorham Fire Department showing what it’s like to hand off a badly hurt patient to EMS. 

“Even the simulations that involve just us playing the patients, it’s not quite the same as having someone you don’t know right in front of you who’s acting as if it’s really happening,” said Katie Gladstone, who received her bachelor’s degree in Health Science from USM in 2019 and is now working on her master’s degree in Athletic Training. “I find it the best way to learn. It takes everything we’ve learned this whole semester and puts it all to use.”

This is the first year for the master’s program, which replaces the bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training. There are nine students in the first class. Simulation

While athletic trainers have historically worked in professional sports or high school and college athletic programs, the job is growing and changing. Athletic trainers now work in health care, public safety, and private businesses, such as L.L. Bean. That means students have to be prepared for any emergency they might encounter in the field, whether it’s a small slip on the ice or a catastrophic fall from a dizzying height. 

“With a C-spine (cervical spine injury), you really have to work as a team and communicate. There are a lot of nuances to think about,” said Meredith Madden, Assistant Professor of Athletic Training.

The simulations don’t just help Athletic Training students. Theater students get to practice their craft. And Gorham Fire Department participants can earn continuing education credits toward their own education requirements. 

“It’s just a really nice partnership with the community,” Madden said. 

For Gladstone and the other students, it’s a chance to get out into the field before they go into the field. 

“Simulations add a lot,” Gladstone said. “And not just sitting in the classroom is a lot more fun.”